Health and safety row sinks city Bath Festival of Boats
An event which has brought dozens of boats to Bath over the past 30 years looks like being sunk after a row over health and safety.
The 27th Bath Festival of Boats had been scheduled to take place at moorings by North Parade last weekend, but instead was switched at the last minute to Bristol.
Organisers Tony Boyce and John Dagger, who launched the event while working for the old city council, say they are not prepared to put on another festival in Bath.
They switched locations after an email from Bath and North East Somerset Council which asked for safety plans and risk analysis documents, and for the payment of mooring fees for the first time in the event's history.
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B&NES says it is keen to see more river-based events in the centre of Bath and has accused the organisers of failing to engage either with it or the firm which now runs the moorings, Riverside Leisure Management.
But Mr Dagger said they had never been asked for such a level of information before the email from the council's divisional leisure director David Lawrence eight days before the two-day festival was due to start.
He said: "The whole aspect of this which has been so upsetting is not only the lateness of the demands we were to meet, but the complete lack of trust in our professionalism. It has proven to be Bath's loss and Bristol's gain."
He said the event had always prided itself on its high health and safety standards, and that all boats taking part were insured and had safety certificates.
"The whole thing was run because it was a spectacle for the city and brought in revenue from visitors," he added.
The council's river champion Councillor Dave Laming (Ind, Lambridge) said he was "bitterly disappointed" at the relocation of the event.
A council spokesman said events "must take place with a clear emphasis upon the safety of participants and spectators, particularly where they impact upon spaces owned by the council and used by the general public.
"The basis of this concern is articulated in various areas of health and safety legislation.
"The Riverside Leisure Management company which manages the river moorings on the council's behalf has been trying to engage with the festival promoters for some weeks, but it appears that the organisers intended to run the event without engaging with the council or the council's agents in any planning."
B&NES, which has commissioned two river safety audits in the past nine months, added: "The council cannot allow a major event such as this to occur without the organisers presenting a safety plan and risk analysis sufficiently in advance to allow it to review the documents for the safety of participants and spectators.
"Only then would a licence be granted for the moorings to be used."